2 compete for school board seat in San Rafael | #Education

Two advocates for San Rafael City Schools face off on the Nov. 3 ballot for the chance to fill the newly created trustee seat on the Board of Education.

The “area 1” seat, which was formed as part of the district’s move this year to zoned elections instead of electing board members at-large, covers Terra Linda, Los Ranchitos and Santa Margarita.

Gina Daly, director of federal relations for the University of California at Berkeley, and Samantha Ramirez, youth program coordinator for the Youth Leadership Institute, each said they have a particular mix of qualifications that would be helpful to the district.

“We are living in an unprecedented time, and we need leaders who have the experience and skills to help us navigate this difficult period,” said Daly, 39, of Terra Linda, who has spent 17 years in public service, first as education program evaluator for Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and then nine years as director of federal relations for UC Berkeley.

“In my current role as UC Berkeley’s federal lobbyist, I am responsible for advocating for programs that enable access and affordability,” she said. She has a master’s degree in public policy from the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley.

“That’s why I think it is so critical that the graduation requirements for San Rafael High Schools align with the a-g (course) requirements for admission to CSU and UC,” she added. “Our public education systems must be in alignment if we want to achieve our social mobility goals.”

Ramirez, 31, of San Rafael, said her roots as a graduate of San Rafael High School, as a past employee in the school district and with nonprofits such as Canal Alliance, Huckleberry Youth Programs, Bay Area Community Resources and Youth Leadership Institute give her the grounding necessary for a leadership role in the district.

“I am also bilingual and bicultural — my mom’s from El Salvador, my dad’s from Honduras,” she said. “I feel that I could serve as such a powerful bridge between so many areas and so many different communities of San Rafael.”

Ramirez adds her connection with youth is “something I bring to the table. This is an opportunity to give back to the place that made me. I love my students, their families and our community.”

Both candidates said they supported the recent decision by the San Rafael Board of Education to eliminate school resource officers — referred to as SROs — from the district’s high school and middle school campuses.

“I agree with the decision,” Daly said. “One of the good things that has come from the Black Lives Matter and the defund the police movement is that we’re calling into question things that we took for granted before. Unless you were really paying attention — and I think a lot of people weren’t paying attention — you weren’t really aware they were on school campuses.”

Daly added that “it was really the youth that brought this up.” She said she felt the district handled the process well and allowed all voices to be heard over multiple meetings.

“I think the next important question is, ‘How will that money be reallocated?” she said. “What I heard from the students is they want more counseling, they want more mental health, they need wrap-around services.”

Ramirez agreed.

“I think it’s really important to recognize that our students are hurting and our community is hurting,” she said. “We really need to take this pain and really address it and heal and move forward. I think counseling is important, restorative space –and bringing in families too.”

“We have to stop addressing things just at the level of students,” she added. “We have to think more holistically and more wrap-around,” Ramirez added. “The racism in the schools affects the racism in our community. The fact that students of color were harmed more by the SROs being there — that point got across, but there’s so much more work to be done to heal the situation.”

She advocates working with the students to process their feelings and creating policies “so that all students feel safe on our school campuses.”

Both candidates also claim strong ties to San Rafael.

Ramirez grew up in San Rafael and attended district schools. She was the first in her family to graduate from college, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in social work from San Francisco State University.

She then returned to the district, where she was an after-school program coordinator at Venetia Valley School for four years and led a weekly after-school program for newcomer immigrant students at Davidson Middle School for two years. In addition, she worked with the various area nonprofits to continue helping youth and families.

She says her background and experience gives her the tools to help “all children in our schools thrive.”

“I feel I have very relevant experience to working with families here in the community,” said Ramirez, who, in her role with the Youth Leadership Institute is in charge of coordinating the Marin Youth Commission.

“I am super-passionate about being a strong leader right now,” she said. “We need strong leadership, and we need vision to move forward.”

She said the issue is, “How can we be inclusive and bring everybody to the table? I also think that youth voice is very important. That’s something I bring with my experience working with young people. I have the passion and the heart.”

Daly, the parent of two young children, said she and her husband, a Terra Linda High School graduate who attended Miller Creek schools and grew up in Lucas Valley, moved to their current home because of the “excellent public schools,” she said.

“I have made it a point to give back locally by serving as president of the Terra Linda Homeowners Association and as an appointed member of the wildfire prevention committee,” Daly said. “The opportunity to serve as a board of education trustee would be a continuation of my public service in the local community.”

Daly added that the coronavirus pandemic “is the major challenge for public schools.”

“Student learning and outcomes might be significantly impacted by the move to remote learning for many students, and the evidence we have of a digital divide could dramatically increase the achievement gap,” she said. “We need to make sure that every student has access to technology regardless of their socio-economic status.”

“We also need to prioritize our most vulnerable students and students with learning differences to return to the classroom or to be placed in learning pods where they have the support they need to thrive,” said Daly.

She also supports additional steps to close the equity gap, such as Spanish-language math and science classes.

“Math is the universal language and there is no reason why it has to be taught in English,” Daly said.  “I hope that I can use my education policy experience and perspective as a parent to advocate for all kids, families and teachers in the San Rafael schools.”

San Rafael City Schools serve about 7,200 students at three high schools, one middle schools, one K-8 school and six elementary schools. The annual budget for the elementary district is $62.7 million; for the high school district, the annual budget is $41 million.

The candidates

Gina Daly

Age:  39

Town of residence: Terra Linda

Occupation: Director of federal relations, UC Berkeley

Education:  BA, government and French, Claremont McKenna College, graduated cum laude with honors in government; master’s degree in public policy, Goldman School of Public Policy, UC Berkeley.

Experience: 17 years public service in California, working for Sen. Dianne Feinstein as education program evaluator, later as a director of federal relations, UC Berkeley analyzing legislative and financial proposals and their impact;  master’s thesis on how to reduce teacher turnover for the city and county of San Francisco recommended the city start a downpayment assistance program for teachers — program was implemented by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom. Experience with public schools funding and budgets.

 

Samantha A. Ramirez

Age: 31

Town of Residence: San Rafael

Occupation: Youth program coordinator, Youth Leadership Institute

Education: B.A., social work, San Francisco State University, first in family to graduate from college.

Experience: After-school program coordinator at Venetia Valley School from 2014 -18. Led a weekly after school program for newcomer immigrant students at Davidson Middle School from 2018-20. Worked with Huckleberry Youth Programs, Canal Alliance and Bay Area Community Resources. Responsible for coordinating the Marin Youth Commission.


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